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The Varieties of Religious Experience : A Study in Human Nature  - William James

The Varieties of Religious Experience

A Study in Human Nature

Paperback Published: 1st November 1983
ISBN: 9780140390346
Number Of Pages: 576
For Ages: 18+ years old

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Standing at the crossroads of psychology and religion, this catalyzing work applied the scientific method to a field abounding in abstract theory. William James believed that individual religious experiences, rather than the precepts of organized religions, were the backbone of the world's religious life. His discussions of conversion, repentance, mysticism and saintliness, and his observations on actual, personal religious experiences - all support this thesis. In his introduction, Martin E. Marty discusses how James's pluralistic view of religion led to his remarkable tolerance of extreme forms of religious behaviour, his challenging, highly original theories, and his welcome lack of pretension in all of his observations on the individual and the divine.

About The Author

Older brother of novelist Henry James, William James (1842-1910) was a philosopher, psychologist, physiologist, and professor at Harvard. James has influenced such twentieth-century thinkers as Richard Rorty, Jurgen Habermans, Michel Foucault, and Julia Kristeva.

Introductionp. v
Author's Prefacep. 1
Religion and Neurologyp. 3
Introduction: the course is not anthropological, but deals with personal documents
Questions of fact and questions of value
In point of fact, the religious are often neurotic
Criticism of medical materialism, which condemns religion on that account
Theory that religion has a sexual origin refuted
All states of mind are neurally conditioned
Their significance must be tested not by their origin but by the value of their fruits
Three criteria of value; origin useless as a criterion
Advantages of the psychopathic temperament when a superior intellect goes with it
Especially for the religious life
Circumscription of the Topicp. 21
Futility of simple definitions of religion
No one specific "religious sentiment"
Institutional and personal religion
We confine ourselves to the personal branch
Definition of religion for the purpose of these lectures
Meaning of the term "divine"
The divine is what prompts solemn reactions
Impossible to make our definitions sharp
We must study the more extreme cases
Two ways of accepting the universe
Religion is more enthusiastic than philosophy
Its characteristic is enthusiasm in solemn emotion
Its ability to overcome unhappiness
Need of such a faculty from the biological point of view
The Reality of the Unseenp. 41
Percepts versus abstract concepts
Influence of the latter on belief
Kant's theological Ideas
We have a sense of reality other than that given by the special senses
Examples of "sense of presence"
The feeling of unreality
Sense of a divine presence: examples
Mystical experiences: examples
Other cases of sense of God's presence
Convincingness of unreasoned experience
Inferiority of rationalism in establishing belief
Either enthusiasm or solemnity may preponderate in the religious attitude of individuals
The Religion of Healthy-Mindednessp. 60
Happiness is man's chief concern
"Once-born" and "twice-born" characters
Walt Whitman
Mixed nature of Greek feeling
Systematic healthy-mindedness
Its reasonableness
Liberal Christianity shows it
Optimism as encouraged by Popular Science
The "Mind-cure" movement
Its creed
Its doctrine of evil
Its analogy to Lutheran theology
Salvation by relaxation
Its methods: suggestion
Diversity of possible schemes of adaptation to the universe
Two mind-cure cases
The Sick Soulp. 96
Healthy-mindedness and repentance
Essential pluralism of the healthy-minded philosophy
Morbid-mindedness: its two degrees
The pain-threshold varies in individuals
Insecurity of natural goods
Failure, or vain success of every life
Pessimism of all pure naturalism
Hopelessness of Greek and Roman view
Pathological unhappiness
Querulous melancholy
Vital zest is a pure gift
Loss of it makes physical world look different
Morbid fear
Such cases need a supernatural religion for relief
Antagonism of healthy-mindedness and morbidness
The problem of evil cannot be escaped
The Divided Self, and the Process of Its Unificationp. 125
Heterogeneous personality
Character gradually attains unity
Examples of divided self
The unity attained need not be religious
"Counter conversion" cases
Other cases
Gradual and sudden unification
Tolstoy's recovery
Conversionp. 142
Case of Stephen Bradley
The psychology of character-changes
Emotional excitements make new centres of personal energy
Schematic ways of representing this
Starbuck likens conversion to normal moral ripening
Leuba's ideas
Seemingly unconvertible persons
Two types of conversion
Subconscious incubation of motives
Its importance in religious history
Conversion--Concludedp. 162
Cases of sudden conversion
Is suddenness essential?
No, it depends on psychological idiosyncrasy
Proved existence of transmarginal, or subliminal, consciousness
Instantaneous conversions seem due to the possession of an active subconscious self by the subject
The value of conversion depends not on the process, but on the fruits
These are not superior in sudden conversion
Professor Coe's views
Sanctification as a result
Our psychological account does not exclude direct presence of the Deity
Sense of higher control
Relations of the emotional "faith-state" to intellectual beliefs
Leuba quoted
Characteristics of the faith-state: sense of truth; the world appears new
Sensory and motor automatisms
Permanency of conversions
Saintlinessp. 193
Sainte-Beuve on the State of Grace
Types of character as due to the balance of impulses and inhibitions
Sovereign excitements
Effects of higher excitement in general
The saintly life is ruled by spiritual excitement
This may annul sensual impulses permanently
Probable subconscious influences involved
Mechanical scheme for representing permanent alteration in character
Characteristics of saintliness
Sense of reality of a higher power
Peace of mind, charity
Equanimity, fortitude, etc.
Connection of this with relaxation
Purity of life
The sentiments of democracy and of humanity
General effects of higher excitements
The Value of Saintlinessp. 243
It must be tested by the human value of its fruits
The reality of the God must, however, also be judged
"Unfit" religions get eliminated by "experience"
Empiricism is not skepticism
Individual and tribal religion
Loneliness of religious originators
Corruption follows success
Excessive devoutness, as fanaticism
As theopathic absorption
Excessive purity
Excessive charity
The perfect man is adapted only to the perfect environment
Saints are leavens
Excesses of asceticism
Asceticism symbolically stands for the heroic life
Militarism and voluntary poverty as possible equivalents
Pros and cons of the saintly character
Saints versus "strong" men
Their social function must be considered
Abstractly the saint is the highest type, but in the present environment it may fail, so we make ourselves saints at our peril
The question of theological truth
Mysticismp. 281
Mysticism defined
Four marks of mystic states
They form a distinct region of consciousness
Examples of their lower grades
Mysticism and alcohol
"The anaesthetic revelation"
Religious mysticism
Aspects of Nature
Consciousness of God
"Cosmic consciousness"
Buddhistic mysticism
Christian mystics
Their sense of revelation
Tonic effects of mystic states
They describe by negatives
Sense of union with the Absolute
Mysticism and music
Three conclusions
Mystical states carry authority for him who has them
But for no one else
Nevertheless, they break down the exclusive authority of rationalistic states
They strengthen monistic and optimistic hypotheses
Philosophyp. 319
Primacy of feeling in religion, philosophy being a secondary function
Intellectualism professes to escape subjective standards in her theological constructions
"Dogmatic theology"
Criticism of its account of God's attributes
"Pragmatism" as a test of the value of conceptions
God's metaphysical attributes have no practical significance
His moral attributes are proved by bad arguments; collapse of systematic theology
Does transcendental idealism fare better? Its principles
Quotations from John Caird
They are good as restatements of religious experience, but uncoercive as reasoned proof
What philosophy can do for religion by transforming herself into "science of religions"
Other Characteristicsp. 339
AEsthetic elements in religion
Contrast of Catholicism and Protestantism
Sacrifice and Confession
Religion holds that spiritual work is really effected in prayer
Three degrees of opinion as to what is effected
First degree
Second degree
Third degree
Automatisms, their frequency among religious leaders
Jewish cases
Joseph Smith
Religion and the subconscious region in general
Conclusionsp. 359
Summary of religious characteristics
Men's religions need not be identical
"The science of religions" can only suggest, not proclaim, a religious creed
Is religion a "survival" of primitive thought?
Modern science rules out the concept of personality
Anthropomorphism and belief in the personal characterized pre-scientific thought
Personal forces are real, in spite of this
Scientific objects are abstractions, only individualized experiences are concrete
Religion holds by the concrete
Primarily religion is a biological reaction
Its simplest terms are an uneasiness and a deliverance; description of the deliverance
Question of the reality of the higher power
The author's hypotheses
The subconscious self as intermediating between nature and the higher region
The higher region, or "God"
He produces real effects in nature
Postscriptp. 385
Philosophic position of the present work defined as piecemeal supernaturalism
Criticism of universalistic supernaturalism
Different principles must occasion differences in fact
What differences in fact can God's existence occasion?
The question of immortality
Question of God's uniqueness and infinity: religious experience does not settle this question in the affirmative
The pluralistic hypothesis is more conformed to common sense
Indexp. 391
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780140390346
ISBN-10: 0140390340
Series: Penguin American Library
Audience: General
For Ages: 18+ years old
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 576
Published: 1st November 1983
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 20.0 x 13.2  x 2.5
Weight (kg): 0.4
Edition Number: 1

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